This excerpt is from Chapter 12 of my new novel, Determination. Previously, Colonel Fitzwilliam invited Jane, Elizabeth, and their aunt and uncle to be his guests at the theatre. Following that evening, Elizabeth tells the colonel that she has decided to allow Darcy another chance to seek her favour by formally courting her in the usual fashion. As her price for this change of mind, she wants Darcy to confess what he did to separate Bingley from her sister. This excerpt deals with Bingley’s reaction to the express he receives from Darcy on that subject.
Love is a condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
– Robert Heinlein
Thursday, May 6, 1812
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Charles Bingley was not in a particularly good mood as he cantered into the stable yard behind his cousin’s estate. A good part of his discontent was the thought of going into the house for breakfast. Despite the fact that he had worked up a good appetite with his brisk morning ride, he could depend on Caroline arriving at the breakfast table as soon as the meal was announced, and he found it wearing to have to listen to her incessant complaints: Scarborough was a boring town, there was nothing to do, and why could they not return to London?
As he swung down from the saddle and handed the reins to a stable boy, he shook his head in irritation with his sister. He knew that he should not allow her to spoil what ought to be a relaxing visit with their many relatives in the area, but he did not seem able to ignore her as he used to. He had tried to inform her that there was no reason for her dissatisfaction since Scarborough was believed to be England’s first seaside resort and was a popular destination for the wealthy of London. But she had ignored him, and he knew why. She wanted to return to London in order to continue her useless pursuit of Darcy, hoping for an invitation to spend the summer months at Pemberley away from the unhealthy streets of London. That would be pleasant enough, but Caroline could not accept that Darcy was simply not interested in her beyond her relationship as a sister to his good friend—certainly not as a wife despite her beauty, wealth, and supercilious manners cultivated and honed by the elite school she and Louisa had both attended.
I am not sure just what kind of woman Darcy is looking for, he thought, but it is certainly not Caroline. When Darcy made that comment at Netherfield about a woman not being truly accomplished unless she could improve her mind by extensive reading, she did not realize he was describing her. Caroline might read, but her book selections do nothing to broaden her horizons.
He was at times tempted to respond with one of his late mother’s favourite sayings when Caroline was young that “boring people are the first to be bored. Are you a boring person, Caroline?”
He smiled at the thought as he walked into the house. He knew he could not be so cold as to repeat his mother’s words, but it was tempting. Very tempting.
The butler must have heard his footsteps as he went down the hall towards the stairs since he stepped out of his little cubby. “An express arrived for you while you were out, sir. From what the express rider said, it appears to be rather important.” He gestured to a silver salver on a small table. Bingley thanked him and picked up the letter, noting it was from Darcy.
I wonder what of importance Darcy has to relate, he thought idly. He, of course, knows that we planned to stay several more weeks before returning to London. And that we shall do, no matter how much Caroline complains. Perhaps it is about that town house I have been interested in buying. In any case, I am sure it concerns nothing of real importance.
However, despite what the butler had said about the importance of Darcy’s express, Bingley was too hungry to read it just now and instead hurried to the breakfast room.
It was almost an hour later before Bingley climbed the stairs and stalked down the hallway to his room. His breakfast sat like a lump of lead in his stomach after barely being able to restrain his temper as Caroline launched into her usual litany of complaints, and he threw Darcy’s express onto the writing desk while he went to the sideboard and filled a glass from the decanter of port. He was so upset that it took a valiant effort to pass by the brandy in favour of the lesser-strength beverage, and it was almost a quarter hour more before he retrieved the express.
He noted the date and time written in the corner and shook his head. Darcy wrote this on Saturday and it is just now arriving, he thought in disgust. That is almost five days! It only takes about three days by coach. Depending on the roads, of course.
Still, he was not that surprised. A postal rider travelled only about three miles in an hour, and even the usual express rider could only manage to increase that to four miles. And they could not travel by day and night; the roads were safer now that so many turnpikes had been opened, but travelling at night was still a risky business. He knew Darcy must have paid extra for even a five-day delivery.
But Bingley was not an overly introspective man, so he shrugged and opened the express.
Three quarters of an hour and another glass of port later, Bingley was vaguely conscious of a knock at his door, but he ignored it as he concentrated on trying to make both his message and his penmanship intelligible. The knock came again, and again he ignored it as his quill scratched over the paper.
His sister’s voice became more strident as she repeated his name. It was only after two more repetitions that Bingley looked up from his letter.
“Go away, Caroline,” he said as he saw his sister. “I am busy. I have several expresses to write and dispatch. But make yourself useful. Ring for the butler.”
Caroline’s lips were compressed in anger as she went to several bell cords hanging from the ceiling and pulled one before turning back to her brother.
“Charles, stop that writing! I want to talk to you.”
“I care little what you want. I am busy.”
“I have just talked with Louisa, and we are both agreed that we want to load up your coach and return to London.”
“You do, do you? Hah!” Bingley concluded his second express and finished addressing it when the butler knocked at the door and entered.
“Ah, Smith! I have several things that I need to get done immediately. First, send word to the stables to have my coach prepared. Then summon my valet to pack my trunk. I want to be on my way in half an hour.”
The butler was taken aback to hear that their visitors were leaving, but he had received surprising instructions many times during his service, so he merely said, “Very good, sir,” and stepped over to pull another bell cord.
“Next—and this is just as important—here are two expresses that I need to send, one to my estate in Hertfordshire and the other to a friend in London. Please summon a pair of riders—good ones, like the one who delivered my express this morning.”
“Perhaps you might consider using just one express rider, sir? If I am not mistaken, both destinations are nearly in line with each other.”
Bingley thought that over for a moment before shaking his head. “No, I shall pay the extra cost to make sure each one is delivered as fast as possible. And pack some food and drink for myself and the drivers for the road. It is going to be a hard journey in any case, but I hope to shorten it to four days.”
“Very well, sir. Is there anything else?”
“No, I believe that will be all for now. Thank you.”
Bingley waited until the butler left before swivelling about in his chair to face Caroline, who wore a huge, satisfied smile.
“You have nothing to smile about like that, Caroline. We are not returning to London. I am going to Netherfield instead. One of my expresses was for the housekeeper to arrange to have the house prepared for occupancy.”
Caroline looked at her brother in shock. “Whatever for, Charles?”
“To try to rectify a horrible mistake if at all possible.”
“Talk sense! What are you speaking of?”
“I am speaking of the conspiracy that you and my best friend engaged in to convince me not to return to Netherfield because Miss Jane Bennet was not suitable to be my wife and did not even care for me. Do you perhaps recall that little conversation the four of us had? You, me, Louisa, and Darcy?
“Well, of course, but that was in your best—”
“Do not tell me that was in my best interest!” Bingley said icily as he surged to his feet to confront his sister. He picked up Darcy’s express and waved it furiously at his sister.
“Darcy confessed everything—what he did in convincing me of Jane Bennet’s indifference to me and what he thought when he considered how Mrs. Bennet would order her daughter to accept any offer of marriage I made.”
Caroline went dead white in shock and mortification, taking a step backwards away from her brother’s anger.
“He also writes that you concealed from me that Miss Bennet was visiting her aunt and uncle in London. Also, that you coldly severed the acquaintance with a young lady you had been pretending was a friend! How could you be so callous and cruel? Is that what they taught you at that expensive school?”
“How…how can you even know of this?” Caroline stammered in mortification.
“Because he developed an interest in Miss Bennet’s sister, Miss Elizabeth—so much so that he made her an offer of marriage! What do you think of that, Caroline?”
Caroline was so dumbstruck that she could make no comment at all, her mouth open wide in dismay at the shattering of all her hopes and dreams.
After several moments, she managed to say weakly, “Then…Mr. Darcy is going to marry…to marry…” Her voice went silent. Caroline Bingley simply could not say the words.
“It is not that simple,” Bingley said derisively. “Miss Elizabeth proved herself no more a fortune hunter than her sister would have been. She refused Darcy’s offer, and angry words were exchanged. It was she who informed him of all the particulars of your deception regarding Miss Bennet. But at least Darcy has confessed his errors to me, and now both of us have an opportunity to achieve our dreams: he with Miss Elizabeth and me with her sister. That is why I am going to Netherfield.”
Caroline opened and closed her mouth several times over the next several seconds, trying to say something but unable to make the words come. Finally, she managed to say, her voice almost like the croaking of a frog, “I…I will not go to Netherfield! I…I refuse to have any…any part in such an unseemly scheme! I will not—”
“That is quite all right,” Bingley said with a smile. “Because, you see, you are not invited. You will remain here in Scarborough—you and your sister and your sister’s husband.”
“But…but you are taking your coach! How will…we cannot…how…how will we get home?” Her voice had risen almost to a screech, and the expression that twisted her lovely features was one of pure desperation and panic.
“You could hire a coach, I suppose,” Bingley said with a careless shrug. “You have your own fortune, you know, unless you have overspent your income again. But if the three of you pool your funds, you should be able to manage something. Or you could always travel by post. In any case, it is not my concern. I must be on my way.”
Bingley left his sister standing motionless, her mouth open in shock and dismay, stepping around her to give instructions to his valet about preparations for his journey.
What do you think? He is flying to Netherfield, Darcy has told him everything and I love how he leaves Caroline. However, back to what we know from the blurb… Colonel Fitzwilliam. Are we having a fight over Jane? Is Jane still in love with Bingley? Will Colonel realise that this love at first sight is eventually true? or maybe he will think it is an infatuation? Are Bingley and Darcy becoming brothers, or would Darcy become brother to the cousin he feels is his brother already? I think I am going to stop here and recommend you to buy Determination or participate on the giveaway below.
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